Tom Gjelten

Tom Gjelten covers a wide variety of global security and economic issues for NPR News. He brings to that assignment many years covering international news from posts in Washington and around the world.

Gjelten's overseas reporting experience includes stints in Mexico City as NPR's Latin America correspondent from 1986 to 1990 and in Berlin as Central Europe correspondent from 1990 to 1994. During those years, he covered the wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Colombia, as well as the Gulf War of 1990-1991 and the wars in Croatia and Bosnia.

With other NPR correspondents, Gjelten described the transitions to democracy and capitalism in Eastern Europe and the breakup of the Soviet Union. His reporting from Sarajevo from 1992 to 1994 was the basis for his book Sarajevo Daily: A City and Its Newspaper Under Siege (HarperCollins), praised by the New York Times as "a chilling portrayal of a city's slow murder." He is also the author of Professionalism in War Reporting: A Correspondent's View (Carnegie Corporation) and a contributor to Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know (W. W. Norton).

Prior to his current assignment, Gjelten covered U.S. diplomacy and military affairs, first from the State Department and then from the Pentagon. He was reporting live from the Pentagon at the moment it was hit on September 11, 2001, and he was NPR's lead Pentagon reporter during the war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. Gjelten has also reported extensively from Cuba in recent years, visiting the island more than a dozen times. His 2008 book, Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause (Viking), is a unique history of modern Cuba, told through the life and times of the Bacardi rum family. The New York Times selected it as a "Notable Nonfiction Book," and the Washington Post, Kansas City Star, and San Francisco Chronicle all listed it among their "Best Books of 2008."

Since joining NPR in 1982 as labor and education reporter, Gjelten has won numerous awards for his work. His 1992 series "From Marx to Markets," documenting the transition to market economics in Eastern Europe, won an Overseas Press Club award for "Best Business or Economic Reporting in Radio or TV." His coverage of the wars in the former Yugoslavia earned Gjelten the Overseas Press Club's Lowell Thomas Award, a George Polk Award and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. He was part of the NPR teams that won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for Sept. 11 coverage and a George Foster Peabody Award for coverage of the war in Iraq. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

In addition to reporting for NPR, Gjelten is a regular panelist on the PBS program Washington Week and serves on the editorial board of World Affairs Journal. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, he began his professional career as a public school teacher and a freelance writer.

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12:56am

Thu May 10, 2012
National Security

Cybersecurity Firms Ditch Defense, Learn To 'Hunt'

Originally published on Thu May 10, 2012 11:19 am

The most challenging cyberattacks these days come from China and target Western firms' trade secrets and intellectual property. But a problem for some is a business opportunity for others: It's boom time for cybersecurity firms that specialize in going after Chinese hackers.

"It's the next big thing," says Richard Stiennon, an industry analyst who specializes in information security firms.

'An Adversary Problem'

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1:35am

Wed May 9, 2012
National Security

Cyber Briefings 'Scare The Bejeezus' Out Of CEOs

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 7:02 pm

Cybersecurity analysts work in the watch and warning center during the first tour of the government's secretive cyberdefense lab intended to protect the nation's power, water and chemical plants, electrical grid and other facilities on Sept. 29, 2011, in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Mark J. Terrill AP

For the CEOs of companies such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard, talk of cyberweapons and cyberwar could have been abstract. But at a classified security briefing in spring 2010, it suddenly became quite real.

"We can turn your computer into a brick," U.S. officials told the startled executives, according to a participant in the meeting.

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12:27am

Tue May 8, 2012
National Security

Bill Would Have Businesses Foot Cost Of Cyber War

Originally published on Tue May 8, 2012 8:20 am

Business executives and national security leaders are of one mind over the need to improve the security of the computers that control the U.S. power grid, the financial system, water treatment facilities and other elements of critical U.S. infrastructure. But they divide over the question of who bears responsibility for that effort.

The disagreement stands as an obstacle to passage of major cybersecurity legislation backed by Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Susan Collins of Maine, among others.

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12:59am

Thu April 26, 2012
National Security

Could Iran Wage A Cyberwar On The U.S.?

Originally published on Thu April 26, 2012 7:21 am

Cybersecurity experts say Iran has the resources necessary to be a major player in cyberwarfare.
iStockphoto.com

Security professionals in both the U.S. government and in private industry have long feared the prospect of a cyberwar with China or Russia, two states capable of launching destructive attacks on the computer networks that control critical assets such as the power grid or the financial system.

Now they face a new cyberthreat: Iran.

"[The Iranians] have all the resources and the capabilities necessary to be a major player in terms of cyberwarfare," says Jeffrey Carr, an expert on cyberconflict who has consulted for the U.S. Department of Defense.

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2:40am

Thu March 22, 2012
National Security

Cybersecurity Bill: Vital Need Or Just More Rules?

Originally published on Fri March 23, 2012 5:03 am

The Homeland Security Department's Control System Security Program facilities in Idaho Falls, Idaho, are intended to protect the nation's power grid, water and communications systems. U.S. security officials and members of Congress are convinced a new law may be needed to promote improved cyberdefenses at critical facilities.
Mark J. Terrill AP

Consider what Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans, and you get an idea of the consequences of a cyberattack on critical U.S. infrastructure: No electricity. No water. No transportation. Terrorists or enemy adversaries with computer skills could conceivably take down a power grid, a nuclear station, a water treatment center or a chemical manufacturing plant.

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2:00am

Mon March 19, 2012
World

Sanctions' Squeeze On Iran Tightens

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

U.S. officials think that this may finally be the time that economic sanctions against Iran will start to have a major effect. The U.S. and its European allies have been hoping that tighter and tighter sanctions will push Iran to negotiate an agreement over the future of its nuclear program. Israel has said it can't wait forever before ordering a military strike, but U.S. officials believe that the sanctions can produce results. Here's NPR's Tom Gjelten.

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10:01pm

Wed March 7, 2012
Presidential Race

How Far Apart On Iran Are GOP Candidates, Obama?

Originally published on Sun March 11, 2012 7:10 am

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in April 2008. Western governments suspect Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies. How to handle the possible threat from a nuclear-armed Iran is a major foreign policy concern of the U.S.
AP

Republican presidential candidates this week — with the exception of Ron Paul — appeared to be trying to outdo each other in saying how tough they would be in dealing with Iran. Speaking before a pro-Israel group, they said President Obama has been weak — "feckless," in Mitt Romney's words.

Obama, meanwhile, was not impressed. He said he'd heard a lot of "bluster" and "big talk" about Iran, "but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we've been doing over the last three years."

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3:57pm

Fri March 2, 2012
Middle East

U.S. To Israel: Iran Is Feeling Heat From Sanctions

Originally published on Sun March 4, 2012 6:41 am

The White House meeting next Monday between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be the most critical encounter for the two men since they took office.

Netanyahu is expected to argue that time is running out on efforts to discourage Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Obama may say the Israelis can count on U.S. support, but that they should give sanctions and diplomacy time to work before turning to military action.

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9:55am

Tue February 28, 2012
Politics

As GOP Races On, Puerto Rico Could Be Battleground

Mitt Romney campaigns with Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuno at Lanco Paint Co. in Orlando, Fla., last month. The Puerto Rico's March 18 primary could be a significant source of delegates for the GOP candidates.
Charles Dharapak AP

Residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens, but they get a say in who should be president only by voting in the Democratic and Republican party primaries. Because Puerto Rico is a territory, not a state, Puerto Ricans are not allowed to vote in the general election. The political parties, on the other hand, can set their own nominating procedures, and on occasion Puerto Rico becomes a primary battleground.

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3:29am

Sat February 18, 2012
Asia

U.S. Not Afraid To Say It: China's The Cyber Bad Guy

Originally published on Sat February 18, 2012 1:09 pm

Staff members use computers at a press center in Beijing. Security experts say hacking of U.S. computers from China is becoming an increasing problem.
Greg Baker AP

American officials have long complained about countries that systematically hack into U.S. computer networks to steal valuable data, but until recently they did not name names.

In the last few months, that has changed. China is now officially one of the cyber bad guys and probably the worst.

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3:48am

Sun January 29, 2012
Europe

In Iran's Oil Gambit, EU Nations Have Much To Lose

The Europeans are in the midst of their most serious economic crisis in 60 years, and now they're hearing it's not just their own fate they have to consider: The whole global economy hangs in the balance.

The International Monetary Fund last week warned that if Europe's problems get any worse, it could push the entire world back into recession.

European Union leaders, meeting in Brussels on Monday, are said to be close to resolving some of their most difficult issues — and they'd better be.

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10:01pm

Tue January 24, 2012
Middle East

Can Sanctions Alone Get Iran To Negotiate?

Originally published on Wed January 25, 2012 8:44 am

Fishing boats are seen in front of oil tankers on the Persian Gulf waters, south of the Strait of Hormuz. The European Union has announced plans to join U.S. efforts to slow the flow of oil from Iran, the world's third largest exporter.
Kamran Jebreili AP

In an effort to bring Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program through economic pain, both the U.S. and the European Union have imposed sanctions that should make it harder for Iran to sell its oil. But the global oil business is unpredictable, and sanctions are no guarantee.

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4:22pm

Mon January 23, 2012
Europe

EU Squeezes Iran With New Oil Sanctions

The EU has agreed to an embargo on buying oil from Iran in the latest sanction against that country for its nuclear program. Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, speaks here in Brussels on Monday following a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
Virginia Mayo AP

The battle over Iran's nuclear program escalated Monday as the European Union announced an embargo on importing oil from Iran.

For years, Europe has been reluctant to join the United States in imposing tough sanctions on Iran. The United States years ago stopped buying Iranian oil, while European nations including France, Spain, Italy, and Greece kept up their purchases. European countries right now buy about 600,000 barrels of oil per day from Iran.

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10:01pm

Wed January 18, 2012
Europe

A Look Back At Bosnia, Through Angelina Jolie's Eyes

Originally published on Thu January 19, 2012 8:36 am

NPR's Tom Gjelten joined Angelina Jolie (right) on a panel about the film In the Land of Blood and Money. Also seen are Vanesa Glodjo (left) and Goran Kostic, who act in the film.
Courtesy of FilmDistrict

Angelina Jolie was just 16 when the war in Bosnia began, and she acknowledges now that she paid little heed to it at the time. But as her awareness of international issues later took shape, her attention was drawn back to that Balkan conflict.

"I wanted to understand," she says. "I was so young, and I felt that this was my generation; how do I not know more?" Now, that war is the subject of In the Land of Blood and Honey, her debut film as a writer and director.

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4:10am

Sun January 8, 2012
National Security

U.S., Iran Play Economic Knockdown

Originally published on Sat January 14, 2012 7:09 am

A member of the Iranian military takes position in a military exercise on the shore of the Sea of Oman in December.
Mohammad Ali Marizad AP

Tensions with Iran these days are as high as they've been in years, and managing them will be one of the top challenges facing the Obama administration this year. With Iran threatening to block U.S. ships from entering the Persian Gulf, and the United States vowing not to back down, the stage seems to be set for war. And yet, what's happening with Iran right now may be more of an economic confrontation than a military standoff.

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4:48am

Tue January 3, 2012
World

Regime Changes May Lead To Dangerous New Year

Big changes in 2011 — from the Arab Spring to the death of North Korea's dictator — create opportunities for 2012. But change can be scary, even when the regimes to be replaced are unpopular or repressive, because there's never a guarantee the new regime will be better.

10:01pm

Tue December 20, 2011
Middle East

White House Faces Tough Choice On Iran Sanctions

Originally published on Wed December 21, 2011 8:35 am

Let Iran off the hook or undermine the global economy? Slap sanctions on an Iranian energy company or provide Europe with an alternative to Russian gas? Washington policymaking is especially difficult when the aims conflict, and few cases illustrate that principle more clearly than the challenge of finding a way to punish Iran without hurting someone else.

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3:21pm

Thu December 15, 2011
World

New Iran Sanctions, And Fears They Could Backfire

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 5:40 pm

Reporters interview Iranian Minister of Petroleum Rostam Ghasemi before the start of the 160th meeting of the OPEC Conference in Vienna, Dec. 14. The global market for oil complicates the issue of U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Xu Liang Xinhua /Landov

The U.S. Congress has approved legislation that targets the Central Bank of Iran and is intended to make it more difficult for that country to sell its oil abroad.

But the latest sanctions could backfire. Reduced oil supplies on the world market could mean higher prices, and therefore Iran could actually make more money from its oil even if it sells fewer barrels.

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3:24pm

Wed November 30, 2011
World

U.S. Considers Sanctions On Iran's Central Bank

Originally published on Wed November 30, 2011 9:13 pm

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves in Pakdasht, southeast of Tehran, Nov. 23. Ahmadinejad on Wednesday said he was surprised at European moves to isolate Tehran's central bank.
HO Reuters/Landov

Iran has been dealing with economic sanctions for years, but the country could soon face measures tougher than anything it has encountered before: Legislation moving through the U.S. Congress would target the central bank of Iran, with the likely effect of severely limiting Iran's oil exports.

Such sanctions would almost certainly damage Iran's economy. The challenge would be to make sure other countries are not hurt as well, given the fragile state of the global economy and the tight global oil market.

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10:01pm

Thu November 10, 2011
Europe

Political Paralysis Worsens European Debt Crisis

Originally published on Fri November 11, 2011 6:48 am

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi promised Tuesday to resign after parliament passed economic reforms demanded by the European Union. The debt crisis in Europe has been compounded by political problems.
Andrew Medichini AP

Barely two weeks ago, it appeared that European leaders had a package to contain their debt crisis. Greece's problems would be managed, with private bondholders taking a hit on their investments and a new bailout to help the government meet its obligations. A European rescue fund would protect Italy and Spain from any risk spreading from Greece.

Markets soared. And then, this week, they crashed.

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